How to Promote Yourself

I received an e-mail from a blogger who is unsure about how to promote themselves as a math blogger.

As I was writing a reply, I thought that there might be some other people who were wondering the same thing. We've already covered this before (see #7) but maybe since the blogging initiative we might need a refresher.

I've found that the best way to promote myself is to be proactive.

1. Set a blogging goal for yourself so that you are consistently putting out new material. Tell yourself you will blog once a week or four times a month, etc. It took me about two years to get a regular following of blog readers. Don't give up, even if you're sure that no one in the world is reading your blog. Keep going. When you do start to get followers, you want to have something for them to dig into and read.

2. Participate in the blogging world by reading and commenting on other people's blogs. By putting yourself out there people will start to click through and find your blog.

3. When you feel like you have absolutely nothing to say, share a resource or write about something that happened in class. People will either give you advice on how to make it better or steal your idea because it's already good. My blog followers majorly picked up when my posts went from random ramblings and venting to sharing a resource, idea, or activity.

4. Add pictures to your blog posts. By doing this, you add visual interest as well as giving a peek into your classroom. Reading about an activity is always more enjoyable if you can see how it actually played out.

5. Don't try to be anyone but you. Don't mimic anyone else or say what you think is the right thing. Write about what is important and interesting to you. Write about what matters. Write with your own voice and your own style.

6. Participate in a meme like #made4math or #myfavfriday. This motivates you to actively blog as well as becoming a regular contributor to a meme that serveral groups of people are reading. Here is a list of other math blog memes for inspiration.

7. Read Kate's post.

Good luck!


Made 4 Math #24 City Design Project

Recently finished up a unit on parallel lines and transversals and used this as an alternative assessment. I found this four years ago somewhere and have modified it and added reflection questions to it. I have no idea where I found this so let me know if I can give credit to somebody.

Until then, I'm taking partial credit. :)

I used a checklist to grade because I was too lazy to create a nicely done rubric.

Here are some student samples:


Using UDL to Set Clear Goals

My current (and final!) grad class is on Systematic Approaches to Instruction and we are currently discussing Universal Design for Learning. I will be posting some notes and excerpts from our readings. This excerpt comes from Chapter 5 of Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age which can be found here: http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

Following a plan that is based on an outcome-rather than one that is more concerned with the precise steps necessary to reach that outcome-is the surest way to preserve the outcome when external conditions change.

Goals that are too highly specified limit the possible strategies for reaching them, thus suppressing creative solutions and limiting the number of people who can even attempt to attain the goals.

We believe the key to reconciling standards with student diversity is a careful examination of the standards themselves-first to determine the true purpose of a particular standard, and then to separate that purpose from the methods for attaining it. If the goal statement reflects its true purpose, it can work for an entire class made up of diverse learners. The means, or approaches, can then be individualized.

If the woodworking instructor had only a handsaw and pencil (the woodshop equivalent of traditional, inflexible instructional media and materials), he might find it very difficult to shift set and reinterpret the goal so that all of his students could make progress. However, if he had a range of modern tools to work with (the equivalent of UDL's flexible media), he could broaden the goal from "master cutting wood with a handsaw" to "cutting wood" or "learning basic carpentry,"-two outcomes that better represent his true purpose. All students could work toward these broader goals, using whatever tools suit them best, and all could strive toward levels
of competency that represent individual progress.

Mr. Hernandez might restate the goal more generally: "Students will collect information from a variety of sources." This rewording separates the goal from the methods for attaining it, broadening the options for the entire class. Patrick, instead of having to lower his sights because of difficulty accessing a particular medium, could rely on scaffolds and supports to achieve the same goal as his peers.

Standards that ask students to identify "who, what, when, and where" prioritize the learning of specific content. This is the domain of recognition networks

Standards that ask students to learn "how" to do something emphasize skills and strategies, the province of strategic networks.

Less common (but we believe, just as important) are the goals that emphasize the value and importance of ideas and connections to students' lives, the "why" of learning, the domain of affective networks.

This standard focuses on process and is rooted in strategic networks. Because the content is not specified and is not key to this particular standard, we could increase students' engagement by encouraging them to select content that interests them and setting the challenge at individually appropriate levels.

For some students, at some times, it may be more important to build engagement than to attempt to develop knowledge or skills. Balancing these three networks as we develop goals is in part a fine art.

Csikszentmihalyi (1997) calls this state "flow" and explains that it's only possible when the level of challenge is just right:
Flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. . . . When goals are clear, feedback relevant, and challenges and skills are in balance, attention becomes ordered and fully invested. Because of the total demand on psychic energy, a person in flow is completely focused. (pp. 30-31)
This state of flow is also noted by Malone (1981) in his studies of video games, in which the challenge escalates as players develop skill, so that they're always playing just above their current level of competence. The video game Lode Runner, for example, includes more than 100 levels, with each level slightly harder than the level beneath it. Mastery of one level opens the door to the next; the difference between successive levels is small, presenting a highly motivating challenge. This same kind of incremental challenge can foster engagement in the classroom. 
When a goal is clear, our strategic networks can devise many different ways to reach it

 What flexible media is available for math content?

Rose, D.H. & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Association for Curriculum and Development http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/


Made 4 Math #22 Unit Plans

I posted about some of my summer plans which include creating unit plans and writing essential questions. I looked at some backward design ideas and various unit plans and I created a template of my own based on what I've read and what I think might actually be useful.

Not sure how well this would work but it seems like a principal would really like it. If I describe the lessons within a unit then it wouldn't matter if my timing was off as much. Theoretically, I think that means I could create this ahead of time (or actually after the fact since I could write them after I teach this year) and turn it in as my lesson plans? I'm not sure yet.



What Is Universal Design for Learning?

My current (and final!) grad class is on Systematic Approaches to Instruction and we are currently discussing Universal Design for Learning. I will be posting some notes and excerpts from our readings. This excerpt comes from Chapter 4 of Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age which can be found here: http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

Chapter 4: What Is Universal Design for Learning? 

Addressing the divergent needs of special populations increases usability for everyone.

Universal Design for Learning extends universal design in two key ways. First, it applies the idea of built-in flexibility to the educational curriculum. Second, it pushes universal design one step further by supporting not only improved access to information within classrooms, but also improved access to learning.

Non-educators often make the mistake of equating access to information with access to learning. In reality, these are two separate goals. In fact, increasing access to information can actually undermine learning, because it sometimes requires reducing or eliminating the challenge or resistance that is essential to learning.

As educators, our aim is not simply to make information accessible to students, but to make learning accessible. This requires resistance and challenge.

Knowing the instructional goal is essential for determining when to provide support and when to provide resistance and challenge.

Principles of the UDL Framework
Principle 1:
To support recognition learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation

Principle 2:
To support strategic learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship.

Principle 3:
To support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options for engagement.

The three UDL principles share one common recommendation: to provide students with a wider variety of options.

The framework of UDL consists of instructional approaches that provide students with choices and alternatives in the materials, content, tools, contexts, and supports they use.

We know we should provide students with sensory alternatives to ensure that those who have difficulty with one sensory modality (such as speech or sight) will not be excluded from learning opportunities.

Similarly, bottom-up motor alternatives, such as special keyboards or voice recognition software, can ensure that students with physical disabilities will not be excluded from a particular learning task. This kind of alternative crosses modalities, offering students a completely different way to obtain or express ideas.

But realistically, even the most creative teacher can only present one option at a time. And even if we did manage to use a variety of approaches and media to present concepts, our students would still need to practice those concepts and apply them on their own.

The UDL framework can guide these three pedagogical steps, helping teachers to set clear goals, individualize instruction, and assess progress.

By simply removing express reference to the medium and stating the goal this way, we open the door for more students' participation and success.

Create ramps, not hurdles!
Rose, D.H. & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Association for Curriculum and Development http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/


Made 4 Math #21 Piecewise Functions and Cup Stacking

I'm doing piecewise functions in Algebra II this week so I created a worksheet and a Powerpoint on evaluating piecewise functions.

I expect it to be pretty easy so I put the answers on the Powerpoint so I can turn it into a game. If it turns out not to be easy, I'm going to have students use colored pencils to circle which function needs to be used; you can see the idea on the second slide, kind of.

Also, in Algebra I we are working on linear functions so I am using Dan's Stacking Cups idea as a fun lesson to end the week. I made a Powerpoint of the questions I want to ask so I don't forget about them.

I also used the same design for my Powerpoints because it's Thanksgiving week and I like matching.


#myfavfriday Whiteboards and Pipe Cleaners

My favorite thing is having four whiteboards in my classroom. I want to say wall to wall but that's not quite accurate. I love having one next to the SMART board so I can display things and still have a space to write on. I love that I can send almost all of my classes to the board when I run out of lesson or I didn't plan anything spectacular. Super nifty.

I also loved this spur of the moment idea I had the other day. My students are struggling with looking at an equation and being able to graph the transformations so I bought some pipe cleaners and used the graph side of my white boards. I wrote a parent function on the board and added one transformation at a time.

As I wrote the transformation, they manipulated the pipe cleaner on the board. This really clicked for some of the students. One student said "Well, why didn't we do this in the first place?" and another student "This is soooo easy."


Summer 2013 Plans

I know it's a little early to plan for summer but in a few weeks the first semester is over and the second semester is the downhill slide.

I really just need to get some thoughts down in print for what I want to do this summer since I will be done with grad school and have complete freedom!!

Unit Plans: I still need to decide what these should look like. Here's the template I've designed so far (Could this take the place of my lesson plans?):

Do I want to create detailed individual lesson plans as well? The state people always love my lesson plan form.

Mathematics Assessment Resource Service: I know Pam Wilson has used the FALs from this website and I'm interested in using those and the tasks. I need to go through and pick the ones that would fit into my curriculum.

Update lessons: I'm trying to do this as I go but sometimes I just write a sticky note and put in somewhere. Fix suckiness!

Create essential questions for each unit. Have students write an essay an answering the question as a form of summative assessment. Create a rubric (with student input) for grading essays.

Mental Math Mondays: I give mental math problems as opposed to bell ringers.

Teach students to give feedback comments on each others work. Track common errors in yellow pages possibly? I saw somewhere where students had yellow pages in the back of their binders that they used to write important formulas, things to remember, and common errors. Unsure about this idea though.

Use the colored pen quiz feedback idea ala Frank Nochese?

Create a SBG board similar to Dan's Wall of Remediation. Need to really think through the logistics of this since I have three different content areas. I'm thinking I could make small cards and have three rows. I could just post the cards for one quarter at a time. How do I want to use these? Students complete one before they can reassess? Will also need answer keys. I want something I can easily print so I don't want to physically write on index cards. Want to make SBG more visible and acccessible to students. *ponders*

Let students pose questions. Compare their answers to other responses and reflect on if they are correct or not.

Use way more instances of "What do you notice/wonder?" and hook students by having them make estimates first.

Use Educreations to compare and contrast, summarize, explain, and integrate visuals.

Daily Doozy

Question Frames 

Create a "Today you need..." sign (laminated) where I can post pictures of supplies the students need to get before sitting down.

Review hockey game! Bowling, golf?

Teach midpoint, bisect, and AIA in terms of proofs so that students are ahead of the game in marking and writing congruent pieces.

Re-organize my filing cabinets and big cabinets. Use the bottom shelf for big things. Store supplies in filing cabinets. Buy 11 1/2 x 15 tubs for every unit I teach; include all activites, manipulatives, and handouts for each unit.

Parent functions and parabolas with play dough?


Welcome to My Life #DITLIFE

Welcome to a day in the life as a high school math teacher!


6:20 Wake up.

7:30 Arrive at school. Go to office, check mail, put lunch in refrigerator. Go to classroom, turn on computers, turn on heat, print originals of today's activities after waiting for computer to boot up. Go to copier in library and start running copies. Go back to classroom to get other originals. Students comes in to talk to me about a field trip- she doesn't want to go anymore because she just moved and can't find her dress clothes so she is the only student not dress up. I talk with her and try to convince her to go anyway. Then go to the teacher's lounge to make more copies since I needed colored paper. Copier jams. Switch paper to another copier. Finish copies. Bell rings. Down the hallway a student asks for a homecoming questionnaire since she lost her first copy. I tell her to ask someone else because I'm busy and feel guilty.

7:57 Class starts. Students are watching Channel 1 news program. Student teacher is in charge of this class. I print out extra homecoming questionnaires. While she teaches, I finish creating answers keys on my powerpoint for today's Algebra II class-I'm being observed by people from the state. I separate all my copies for the day and put them into bins. Grab all previous originals and hole punch to put into binder and clear off my desk. Look at my copies for Algebra II and realize my bulleted numbers are all out of order. Spend 10 minutes trying to fix them so I can reprint and recopy.

8:47 Bell rings. In comes Algebra II which student teacher is also in charge of. She starts teaching. Done with answer keys I finish grading 26 geometry tests that I didn't finish last night. Enter all grades into online gradebook. Create a fancy lesson plan for my Algebra II class to impress the state people. Print it in red but my color printer double prints and makes it look crazy. Change to blue and print again.

9:37 Bell rings. It's my plan period. Spend 5 minutes discussing how class went with the student teacher- I was observing her while doing my work. IC comes in to make sure I am still okay with getting observed. I agree. Discover I will be observed by 5 people. Create 5 folders with fancy lesson plan and all the materials for that day. Go to office, check mail again, go to the bathroom, recopy Algebra II papers that had the messed up bullets. Go back to classroom and get SMART board and powerpoints set up for Algebra II.

10:27 Bell rings. As students come in I warn them about observers. Two students are gone on field trip. One student asks to miss class so she can drive with the driver's ed instructor. Class of 12 has dwindled down to 9. Lady comes in to tell me I'm actually being observed by 7 people. We start class with a bell ringer. Interrupted by phone call from guidance counselor warning me that state people are on the way. Continue bell ringer. & adults enter the room and sit in the back room. All air is sucked out of the room. Continue teaching even though students are completely silent. Interrupted by phone call asking student to come to the office. Continue teaching.

11:20 Bell rings. Seven adults remain to question me about class and give feedback while 22 middle school kids come in, crazily of course.

11:23 Tardy bell rings. Adults leave, student sit. Realize I didn't create a journal activity for today so make one up off the top of my head. Finish activity from Friday then realize I also didn't create anything else for today and we still have 25 minutes of class left. Run various ideas through my head, think of one, go search through filing cabinet for it. Find it, start playing.


12:09 Bell rings. Student comes to turn in homecoming questionnaire that she rewrote on notebook paper because I didn't have time to print one for her. Feel more guilty. I straighten up classroom, set up classroom and SMART board for my next period, lock my door, turn off lights, and go to lunch. Listen to nosy people gossip and generally be negative for as long as I can take.

12:33 Back in my classroom. Make sure everything is ready to go. Realize I haven't taken attendance all day. Update attendance. Go to bathroom.

12:43 Bell rings. Students come in. 4 students missing. Struggle through bell ringer. Model lesson on board that we've been working on for a while and students act like they have no idea what I'm talking about. Work example after example after example. Student asks to go to nurse. Continue working. Student comes back from nurse and draws all over desk rather than participate.

1:30 Bell rings. Students come in. Start bell ringer while I pass out tests. Students record grades and shade progress on pages in their binder. Class cleans out the notes from their binders and throws them away. Some actually make it in the trash can. Go over bell ringer. Realize I didn't go over test. Get tests back out and answer questions. Put away and go back to board. Model lesson on board with student participation. Pass out papers. Students are supposed to work independently but are either talking or need my approval on every answer before they can move on. Go crazy going back and forth between telling class to be quiet and answering questions.

2:20 Bell rings. Students come in. One student needs to go to take a test and one needs laptop help from tech guy. Another student has been absent for two weeks for medical reasons so I have to go over material from two weeks ago with her so she can make up a test. Another teacher calls to ask if student x can come down and do a retake on some tests. (Think about student x who shows bad attitude and lazy class effort) I say no he doesn't need to but then change my mind and give him the benefit of the doubt. He comes down and tells me he is going to make up tests until he has a 95. I alternate between printing him practice problems, grading them, and helping the other girl practice on the board. Alternate for rest of hour. Boy leaves with a 94.21 and girl is ready to take test tomorrow.

3:10 Bell rings. Students leave. I straighten up classroom and shut down computers. Clean off my desk and pack my bags. Grab my coat, phone, water, and binder and head to the office. Check my mail and head to the lobby.

3:17 Start cheerleading practice. Girls are running one lap around the levee. While they run I yell at them and threaten them with more running when they start walking.

3:30 Go in lobby. Girls are stretching.

3:35 Start practicing cheers.

4:20 Cheerleader mom comes in to pay for cheerleader's stuff but needs change. I go to office. Assistant Principal has no change or access to change. Principal makes change from his wallet. Go back to mom and pay principal back. Go back to practice.

4:50 Practice ends. Go to my room, grab my bags, shut off lights, head back to lobby. Wait until bus comes and all cheerleaders have left.

5:00 Drive home.

The rest of my night consists of a nap, dinner, a bath, a general waste of time, and now blogging. Which means it is 11:11 and I haven't done any work for tomorrow. I'll probably be up until at least 1:00 AM finishing things. It's a normal night.


This was harder than I thought. Even though this was long, I didn't even go into detail with my teaching, conversations, and internal decision making. I kept wanting to go into detail with everything but at the same time trying to keep it short and sweet. This was actually a day with minimal interruptions compared to some.

I hope this helps get our point across of what it is like to be a professional educator.

What I do is both valuable and undervalued.

I hope you can understand.

Made 4 Math #20 Parallel Lines and Transversals Investigation

I was so excited last night when I created this lesson. I usually teach angle pairs with parallel lines and transversals with direct instruction and a lot of drill and kill. My instructional coach heavily encouraged me to use this song that she made up and I did two years ago...but the students mixed the words up and I think that actually made it worse.

My most successful way of teaching it has been to draw dotted lines connecting the two lines to literally create a box so students can visualize interior and exterior of the 'box', basically the way Sarah posted here.

My coach also recommended the shading and when I saw Sarah's picture I tried to come up with some type of colored pencil investigation. I ended up with something that we only colored once but that's okay. I was just really happy to try something new. I've been doing some independent investigations in Algebra II that worked well but there is something about these sophomores that they just never stop talking. One student finished this  whole packet in about 10 minutes while the majority of the class only got halfway through. They are either constantly talking or need my approval of every single answer they write down before they can go on. Any remedies?

I modeled one example on the board and had students give me names to label the angles rather than numbers. Then I just questioned them by saying which people are inside the box but on opposite sides of the transversal, and questions like that. They seemed to do well with it and for the most part did well on the investigation. They struggled the most with corresponding angles but that seems like a pretty common trend.

Tomorrow I plan to steal Sarah's flash card idea to start delving into angle measures and solving for x. Thanks for all your good ideas Sarah!

Last but not least, here is my investigation:


#myfavfriday mp3 Converter

Another converter I've been using is to convert Youtube videos into mp3s. This is great if you are ever in charge of a dance or if you just want to use songs in your lessons. Most of the time Youtube has the clean version of songs.

Anyway, the website is www.youtube-mp3.org and all you have to do is paste the link of the video you want to convert into the box. Click Convert Video and it works immediately. Just download the mp3 and save. It's super simple and works quickly.

I've also just started using desmos.com for graphing. Go to the site, click Launch Calculator. Type in an equation or a list of ordered pairs (with commas in between every pair) and it will automatically graph. Next click the blue Share button and choose the Image button in the bottom right hand corner. A new window opens with a picture of your graph. Right click and and choose Save As... to save the image.


You can then insert them where needed.


Better Online Math That's Not Online

I'm taking these straight from Dan's post:

These are all ideas I can implement in my classroom on my own- without the technology. Eventually, this will be created and become the norm in education. But why wait? Let's teach better math now.

What other ideas can we come up with that creates an intellectual need for students to learn more?


Made 4 Math #19 Parent Functions and Transformations

I'm really proud of myself for a couple of reasons that all pertain to the blogosphere. One is that I at least feel like I'm more on track this year based on what others are posting. It seems like every idea that comes up is either something I taught last week or something I'm planning for next week. That just makes my teacher heart happy.

Second, I took some ideas from other good bloggers and made two really good activities for my students. Teacher heart smiles again.

Third, my students really liked those activities. They said it forced them to read attention. They said they learned more than listening to me talk because they actually had to do all of the work themselves. They even said that students talked less because they were more engaged...they actually used the word engaged! Teacher heart passes out.

For my first activity, I shamelessly stole Pam Wilson's file Function Families Investigation. Her description reads: "modified through the years – this small group investigation allows students to learn how to enter different types of functions in graphing calculator; students group functions based on shapes of graph, then give a description of similarities in the functions’ equations."

With her permission I have modified it and will link to it here. The changes I made was to first type out very clear and very thorough directions on how to graph equations on the calculator because I knew my students would need it.

I also created a sheet of 16 graphs for students to sketch their answers on. I modified the equations so that there were 4 equations for the 4 parent functions I had in mind: linear, quadratic, exponential, and absolute value.

I basically used the same reflection questions at the end but I changed the graphs and added a couple of questions to the end.

Last but not least, I added a foldable at the end of the document. It lists the name and equation of the parent function as well as a description of what the graph should like. The space below gives room to glue 2 of the 4 graphs from each group. It works best to glue above and below the type. Then I had students fold the bottom up until it hits just below the parent function name. Then we cut the bottom half so that we have a 4 window foldable with tabs. I did not pass these out until students had completed the investigation and reflection questions.

The activity was awesome and very few people screwed it up. Here are some things to look out for: students graphed exponential functions as linear functions because they either ignored or didn't realize that the x was an exponent. Also, some students ignored the absolute value bars or thought that they were 1's. This resulted in students having 12 graphs with straight lines and 4 with parabolas...which made the sorting and analyzing next to impossible.

Also, students can't read. They would ask a question that was literally answered in the next sentence. Some just sat there waiting for me to tell them what to do. I warned them from the beginning that I was going to be a jerk and answer almost every question with "Read the directions". Then I proceeded to do so.

I made up a slide of the right answers but it just wasn't needed. And since students were working at their own pace, there was never an appropriate time to show it without ruining it for another student. Once they finally caught on...it was beautiful.

And so I proudly present:

Function Families Investigation

The foldable was printed separately on colored paper and made for a really nice transition into the next lesson...Function Transformations.

I planned this lesson to be an individual activity as well. You read the feedback from my students at the beginning of this post and that encouraged me to continue in that vein.

For transformations, I looked at several different bloggers' post but ultimately still created my own. I created a set of 8 transformation cards for the 4 parent functions with 6 sets to a page. The eight transformations were left, right, up, down, skinny/steeper, wider/flatter, flip, and then more than one combination of those.

For linear, I couldn't figure out if there was a transformation for left and right so I just didn't include those. Therefore, each student should have 30 transformation cards. I labeled them Transformation 1, Transformation 2, etc so that I wouldn't give away what the transformations were and I printed each transformation on a different color of card stock which greatly helped in the sorting.

From there students used their foldable to write in the parent function names and equations on all 32 graphs...which they hated and a lot of them skipped. I thought maybe I should just type them in but since I wasn't lecturing at all, I think this was an easy way for the students to commit those four function names and equations to memory.

They then sorted and found the cards for Transformation 1 and matched them to the correct graph shape (again reinforcing what they analyzed the day before). They wrote this new equation in the 'new equation' box and graphed it on their calculator. I plan to have students go back with a highlighter and highlight the part of the 'new equation' that is different from the original.

Next they graphed the new equation on their calculator and sketched it with a colored pencil on the graph. Now the parent graph is already on there and I did that on purpose so they could easily see what happens to their colored graph.

Therefore, the next step was for them to finish by answering the question "What happened to the graph?" This process is repeated throughout all 8 transformations.

And that ladies and gentlemen is Function Transformations:

The whole class hasn't finished yet but after they do we will go back and use the foldable to write down the transformations and the equation with the part that is causing the transformation to happen written in colored pencil.

My plan after that is to do a review game where I give students the equation and have them sketch the graph without a calculator and maybe vice versa where they have a picture and must write the equation. More to come on that...

My one annoyance is this...what do you do with the students who get done before everyone else? Oh wait, that's the same problem I always have. Maybe the real question is how do we get everyone else to speed up?


#myfavfriday File Converter

A tool I've been using more often is this pdf to Word converter. It's free and easy and quick. Any pdf I find online I can then save to my computer, upload to this website, and the website converts it to a Word document. They send it as an attachment to my e-mail where I can download and then modify or copy and paste. Some nights this is a complete godsend. From what I've seen so far it looks almost exactly like the original pdf. Even the address is easy to remember: http://www.pdftoword.com/

Also I just bought a new six drawer organizing bin that I LOVE and then of course I had to reorganize half the room to get everything looking how I wanted. I got it from Wal-Mart for about $20 but I know it's not sold in every Wal-Mart. The drawers are 14 x 14 which is basically huge and perfect.

And last but not least, our Student Council sold 'mumpkins' this year- baby pumpkins decorated like mummies. We've tried paint, ribbon, pom poms, glue, etc and this was our best idea yet.

We wrapped the pumpkins in colored self-adhesive medical gauze, used tacky glue to attach googly eyes to the gauze, used a sharpie to draw on a mouth, wrote on leaves as tags, and stapled the tag directly onto the pumpkin. We cleaned, decorated, and tagged over 150 pumpkins in one hour...now that is efficient.


Made 4 Math #18 Slope-Intercept Form Card Sort

I started a new unit in Geometry- Parallel and Perpendicular Lines. I started with a card sort. I numbered the back of the page going across 1-12. Then I copied each page on a different color of card stock and cut those in half. I passed it out to the students and had them cut out the individual squares. (Yay for student labor!) Unfortunately, when they cut, the numbers were cut in half which posed some problems. Maybe you should have students number them after they cut? Not sure what happened on my end.

I asked students to sort into groups. Some students sorted the ones with fractions, parentheses, and neither. I'm sure you will see a wide variation. The first hint I gave was that students should have three groups. They resorted and I went back around the room to observe. Next, I told them they would have one group of six and two groups of three. From here, almost everyone had their cards in the correct group.

I displayed this slide to make sure everyone had the correct groups.

A few students recognized that the one group of six were in slope-intercept form. Yay for Algebra I. I asked them to put those six cards back into their envelope. Then I passed out this worksheet and asked students to write in the equations on the cards onto the worksheet and solve for y. They did okay at this. After they were done I told them to get the six back out of the envelope because these were the answers to the top of their worksheet. See what I did there?

From there we went to the bottom half of the worksheet which was graphing lines on the calculator. Then on the back we worked down each column individually. We solved a pair of equations for y. We graphed. We noticed both lines were parallel. We compared the equations. Oh my, they have the same slope! We did this three times and summarized that all parallel lines must have the same slope.



#myfavfriday Student Teacher

I realized I haven't blogged yet about my student teacher.

She is really, really good. Other than our type A personalities, we don't really have a lot in common. She is a beauty pageant queen many times over, perfect teeth, really tiny, voluminous hair, extra peppy, loves small talk, and very friendly. I'm not any of those things. She's definitely smarter than me when it comes to math.

She has her stuff together. In some ways, I feel like we are on the same level and consequently, I have really high expectations for her. She taught my Algebra I class all week and just modified my materials. The students could not believe this was the first time she's ever taught. When I observe her, I write two-column notes labeled "Go" and "Grow". That helps me balance my comments between praise and instruction. I am having a blast with 'coaching' her and just making suggestions. It's so much fun! If we could do this with teachers for a full year, there would be no stopping us. It is such a valuable process.

I like having someone to discuss and brainstorm ideas with and together we've made some changes to the pacing and created some activities. It's nice to not be so isolated. It's also nice to sit back and let someone else be in charge.

But my favorite thing of all is this...not once have I compared myself to her or wished that I was different. I am very happy being me and teaching the way that I teach. I have been surprised and found some good ideas while watching her but I'm actually feeling more and more satisfied with who I am as a teacher.

That may seem silly to you...why would I ever compare myself to someone who hasn't been a teacher yet? But I spent a lot of years in various parts of my life comparing myself, not measuring up, and wanting to be someone else. I still sometimes compare my teaching ability to you mad geniuses out there. But this year, I am just really satisfied with where I'm at and what I'm doing. I'm confident....solid.

Today I had to teach in Algebra I because she works on Fridays and I wondered if it would be weird since she has taken over the class. (Warning: Some lameness will appear shortly) But it was seriously like coming home. It just felt right and I was thinking "Yeah, these are my kids." It just felt so comfortable and the lesson went so smoothly...confirmation that I just might have a handle on this beast we call teaching.

I've rarely had this experience. I am able to admire traits about someone else without without without making myself feel bad for not having those traits.  It is possible to lift up someone else without degrading yourself.  It is possible to like myself more and more for just being me. It is possible for me to measure up and not find myself lacking.

It. Is. Possible.


Made 4 Math #17 Relations and Functions Foldable

First, I made a very basic grade sheet for my students to keep track of their grades. I'm tired of looking it up over and over or seeing the looks on their faces when they realize I don't have every single one of their grades memorized...similar to the look they get when they realize I can do mental math. *gasp*

This is nothing fancy at all but maybe there is someone who can't figure out how to make tables yet, or who doesn't want my grade sheet but is now inspired to make their own, or who just happens to need this file on the exact day they read this post (love when that happens!).


Now to my real creation. I loved Nora Oswald's post about a relations and functions foldable. I had just finished that in Algebra II and realized how nice a foldable would have been to tie all that information together. Since I am now teaching functions in Algebra I, I modified her foldable so that it works for our interactive student binders.

I typed in the main stuff (text stolen from Nora) so that the real work of the students is to create the examples and non-examples which to me, seems like the higher order thinking I want to accomplish. If you decide to use this, when you fold the top down, do not fold exactly in half. Instead only fold to the bottom of the dotted line. Then you have space to write the title and everything fits nicely.

The students also label the outside flaps, which are created by cutting on the top dotted lines only. This gets them thinking a bit because they have to decide the difference between each flap.

My student teacher is using this today in her first lesson so I will try to update my post later tonight with pictures and whatnot. She will be teaching domain and range so we went ahead and put those blanks on the foldable as well.

Now presenting:


Made 4 Math #16 Picture Frame Stations

I know other people have posted picture frame stations before but mine is a little different. I was teaching function composition in Algebra 2 and I started by making students wear function necklaces (nod to @jreulbach) and just working a lot of examples. I thought it would make a good visual of which function to evaluate first but I couldn't really keep talking about one boys function and putting it inside of another boy's function for very long...

The next day I set up function composition stations. I bought 5 x 7 plastic frames from Wal-Mart for $.95 each. I used big colored index cards to write the functions on. I gave students a worksheet that had four boxes per station. Two boxes were problems asking students to compose functions and write a new expression and the other two asked them to compose functions and evaluate for a number.

I varied them a bit, for example, an f of f, a station with three functions where they only used two at a time, etc.

I also bought tiny 3 x 5 frames and used 3 x 5 index cards (color coded to the big ones of course) and worked out each problem. The answer cards went inside the small frame which were neatly tucked inside the larger frame. I chose a leader for each station, based on who seemed to catch on the quickest during class the day before. Everyone worked the problem at the same time and then the leader would show the answer card and answer any questions.

The logistics worked okay but it didn't suit the concept too well; they're really struggling with it. I probably should have done some cut and paste activity where they literally replace....ooh I might just have planned tomorrow's lesson in my brain!

Anyway, two other things to share. One, I found this parent teacher conference rubric on Pinterest and minus the dorky school bus picture, you can use this for any content area and any age level. Yay.

Two, for my grad class I had to create an assessment plan so I thought I would share what I have. You can download my template or read mine and let it make you think a little more deeply about how often you are truly assessing.



The end.


Warm Ups and Exit Slips Revisited

Almost 4 months ago I wrote about my plans for warm ups and exit slips. I received a nice comment tonight asking me to revisit the topic. Of course that means I first have to re-read my post to see what the heck I was talking about.

Ok I'm back. I have alluded to different ideas in posts throughout the summer of more solid plans but this seems like a good time to explain.

Basically I used the feedback from that post and formed a new idea.

Jason comments:
I'd suggest that the warm up should be something that all kids can do with minimal guidance from the you. There should be (virtually) no (mathematical) barrier to entry. The last thing you want to have to do is to reteach/tutor while you are trying to take role, get kids settled in, etc. Think of it as time to build procedural fluency and automaticity.

Excellent thinking.

DKlemme comments:
At the Minnesota Math Conf. I saw some warm ups that interested me. 2 week cycles of questions, 3 review type questions of past material or skills needed for next concept. Use of vocab in directions, as the cycle gets into week two you take out the key vocab and Ss fill it in.

Also excellent thinking.

I combined those two ideas together and made a PowerPoint of pre-algebra skills, mostly three questions a piece, for three days a week of the entire school year (the fourth day is a practice quiz and the fifth day is a school thing). In the first half the questions go through a 2 week cycle where the first week contains hints and the second week does not. I use this PowerPoint for all my classes Alg I - Alg II because they all need refreshers and hopefully can at least start on the problems without me.

Creating that PowerPoint was a godsend although it took me hours and hours and I temporarily hated my life while doing it. But I always have a way to start class smoothly and it gives me a couple of minutes to get my stuff together. Oh, and I've been using blank quarter sheets of copy paper by the door that kids just grab on their way in. I told them at the beginning that I may or may not collect them and some students choose to keep them even when I tell them to throw them away. Truthfully, I've only collected them once. I've had a few issues with students not wanting to do them, especially since I don't grade them, but it's pretty hard for them to refuse when I stand beside their desk and ask them if they will do these problems for me. Overall I've had a very positive reaction.

As for exit slips....they died on the table. In a later post I briefly mentioned exit slips in my new beginnings and then proceeded to talk way more about summarizing. I've been using that more as a way of summarizing the lesson and getting feedback rather than an exit slip. I built this right in to the guided notes- after almost every example I force students to stop and write in words what we just did. I think it's been a really good idea and I hope that it has started to build the habit of frequently stopping and thinking about what we're doing as well as putting it into words. I don't really have any hard facts to support my thinking but I know that in review games and on assessments I have been asking students to explain, tell the difference, write examples, write analogies, etc and they haven't balked yet. I would say that's an improvement.

I had mentioned unit summaries which morphed into my PEEL graphic organizer but that just took way too much time and has since fell by the wayside.

The quarter ends this week so I'm thinking of trying something new. Since we made a summaries tab in our math binders, I've got to use that for something. I'd like to try Nora Oswald's Learning Log Prompts Poster. I could modify my original unit summary sheet to work for this where students write the date, the concept taught, and then answer one of the prompts. Actually, the more I think about that, the more I really like the idea.

That will be another good habit to get into and something I could use after the bell ringer to promote some discussion: turn to your partner and share what you wrote at the end of class yesterday. I don't know, that will probably take up too much time but you never know when you will need a time filler.

All in all, I'm satisfied with my bell ringer and I'm happy with how often we are summarizing- I guess if I can get this exit slip idea nailed down then I'll be all good.

Thanks mrsaitoromath for motivating me to write this blog post- you've reminded me of something I could be doing better.


Made 4 Math #15 Foldables

I wanted to share two foldables I've used so far.

One is ripped off of Sarah Rubin's Words into Math foldable that I modified to fit on a regular piece of paper rather than into a composition notebook.

I displayed this slide with key words in it and we wrote them in the correct places.

I like the idea of keeping this all year and adding more words to it as we come across them. Here's the download:

In Algebra II we made a foldable for Operations with Functions. On the outside flaps we wrote how to do each operation and things to remember (i.e. don't add exponents when combine like terms).

We made this after I taught those concepts so I had students go back to their notes and pick out two examples of each to write  on the inside. Just one small way to show that our notes have a purpose. Here's the download:

If you notice, function composition is on here as well. I haven't taught it yet but I noticed when I folded the foldable, the back was split up nicely into four squares as well. I threw the title on there and now we can add to that this week.